WASHINGTON – Additional flexibility to assess the compliance with the standards of the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs has been announced by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). The agency cited the operational challenges relating to the limits placed on meat, meat alternatives and grain, according to the American Meat Institute.

The limited availability of different serving sizes at schools with multiple menu offerings from suppliers plus the variation in maximum limits by age or grade level were among contributing factors to the challenges faced by many School Food Authorities (SFA) in meeting the new standards. Schools were limiting popular menu items, such as hamburgers and chicken breast, as a result.

Schools will not have to limit the meat, meat alternatives or grains that they serve students for the rest of the 2012-13 school year. The total calorie limit on school lunches, 650 – 850 calories depending on age, plus the daily and weekly minimum requirements for grains and meat/meat alternatives will remain unchanged.

USDA will review feedback and data on this temporary measure at the end of the 2012-13 school year to determine whether other adjustments need to made in the future.